Wake County commissioners have negotiated a deal that will enable Forest Hills Apartments residents who receive federal housing subsidies to pay their existing rent rates through June 15.
Commissioner Greg Ford called the deal a joint effort by the Wake and Raleigh housing authorities, county staff members and the new owner of the complex, Eller Capital Partners.
“This provides families with the opportunity to remain in their homes through the end of the school year,” Ford said in a statement. “It also allows for a coordinated effort to secure housing for displaced residents with a more reasonable time frame.”
Though the arrangement is a temporary solution, residents of the 35-year-old apartments on Garner’s Seventh Avenue say it beats the situation they would be facing otherwise.
Eller Capital Partners sent out notices March 15 informing residents of renovation plans requiring that they clear out of their apartments within 45 days or be evicted. The notices indicated that housing-assistance programs would no longer be accepted at the site.
About 70 percent of the 136-unit complex is currently designated for affordable housing.
“I am so very grateful to the commissioners for buying us some time, but I do hope they can help us find new housing because I’m not sure what will happen after that,” said Joyce Mosley, who has lived more than 30 years at Forest Hills. “I don’t want to be told, if I can’t find anything in two months, I’m going to be out on the street.”
Commissioner Jessica Holmes on Monday referred to federal law that requires owners to provide a 90-day notice to vacate before evicting tenants.
The question of legality and the amount of public feedback the issue received prompted the board to get involved, Holmes said.
“The community stepped up and let this company know in Wake County we very much disapprove of (its) actions, even if it was lawful,” Holmes said. “We would expect them to not only follow the law but to have some compassion for these individuals, some of whom have been there upwards of 30 years.”
Despite the county’s intervention, Mosley is concerned the June 15 date may still provide too little time for her and others to square away new living arrangements.
“Two months sounds like a lot, but not when everywhere you call says they don’t have anything available and it will be 2-3 years waiting list,” Mosley said.
Holmes said the county is searching creatively for a long-term fix.
Holmes, who formed and chairs Wake’s affordable housing task force, said solving the dearth of affordable housing in Wake County could include providing incentives among landlords where housing vacancies exist.
“Opening up new inventory is our main priority right now,” Holmes said. “We can provide rental assistance in the form of deposits and possibly a couple months rent in advance that may make a landlord more willing to work with a subsidized program.”
Holmes said the county may entertain ideas as unconventional as long-term hotel stays to address the more pressing needs of the Forest Hills residents.
“If we can’t find new housing for these people, which is our No. 1 goal, if it means keeping them off the street, I think it’s an idea worth exploring,” Holmes said.